London celebrations

London recruits Justin and Sigourney Beaver to save the city


Dam-med if they don’t

March 17 marked the return of the beaver to Forty Hall Farm in Enfield, two years after Enfield Council and the London Climate Change Partnership drew up a plan to help alleviate major flash floods that plagued the city ​​in recent years.

Although generally known as a rainy city, London’s downpours turned from dreary to gloomy, with LCCP vice-chairman Bob Ward expressing concern that the city’s risk of flooding had turned deadly.

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According to a July 2021 report, the city saw more than the average rain for the total month over several days. In addition to flooding more than 1,000 homes, the influx of water forced the closure of hospitals and train stations.

“There is now a real risk of drowning, especially in basement apartments if a major flash flood occurs in the middle of the night,” Ward told the Observer.

From hunted to heroes

Although their ancestors were hunted to near extinction for their coat and musk in Billy Shakespeare’s time, two chosen beavers – a male from a similar project in Yorkshire and a wild Scottish female, temporarily named Justin Beaver and Sigourney Beaver – made a comeback as the key to the city’s plan to mitigate flooding.

We don’t know how Hailey will feel about it, but the Council hopes that Sigourney and Justin will immediately get to work making baby beavers that can help them build an empire of dams, chop down trees, and bring new wild neighbors to the area.

If all goes according to plan, these new habitats will eventually slow down and filter wetland waters, reducing flooding downstream.

The secret of success

If beavers are so ecologically useful, why would anyone want to hunt them? To put it simply: their pretty buttocks!

If you ever find yourself wandering in the woods and smell a whiff of vanilla, it’s probably the mark of a beaver. They mark their territory leaving behind castoreum, a gooey secretion found in their castor sacs, which sit right next to their anal glands. What sets beavers apart from other animals is that rather than emitting a putrid smell that makes humans run, their characteristic smell is that of musky vanilla, perfect for bottling.

(a) Carcass of a beaver, showing the location of the cut to be made to remove the castor sacs and anal glands.  (b) Castor sacs and anal glands exposed, showing where the cut should be made to separate the sets of glands.

Although less common today, for over 80 years the beaver’s sweet secretion has been squeezed from its tushy and used in imitation vanilla, beauty products and even the whiskey.

Beaver musk is recognized as safe by the FDA, but due to the difficult factor of how it is harvested, it is usually listed as “natural flavor”.

beaver fever

The celebration of Justin and Sigourney’s release at the compound was sweet enough in itself, with London Mayor Sadiq Khan joining in the festivities with a video posted to Twitter.

Naturally, Justin Beaver caused a stir immediately after being released from his cage, diving straight into his new pond. Sigourney was a bit more reserved, needing to be coaxed before she finally entered a shallow stream and made her way to meet her new beau.

For all Beav fans, it’s expected that a public “beaver cam” will go live once the duo have had some time to bond.


By Meghan Yani, Contributor for Ripleys.com

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